Former Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
Ma was indicted on Feb. 13 for allegedly embezzling NT$11 million (US$333,000) from his special mayoral allowance during his eight years in office.
Prosecutors said that between December 1998 and July last year, Ma wired half of his monthly special allowance -- NT$170,000 -- directly into a personal account. In this way, they said Ma had accumulated NT$11,176,227 in accounts belonging to himself and his wife.
Taipei District Prosecutors' Office spokesman Lin Jinn-tsun (
During the trial Ma admitted he had taken half of his monthly special allowance for personal use, but said he believed that government officials' special allowances should be treated as income, not as public funds.
"The court decided government officials' special allowances should be treated as a substantial subsidy -- as income -- and so Ma did not embezzle any public funds," Taipei District Court spokesman Liu Shou-sung (
Liu said the court upheld the view that government officials have, since 1973, not been required to account for half of their special allowance.
The court accepted that it was a matter of convention that officials enjoyed considerable flexibility in dealing with their special allowance funds, Liu said.
"The court is of the opinion that Ma had no intention to embezzle any public funds, nor did he attempt to mislead his [Taipei City Government] accountants and auditing staff," Liu said.
Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) announced the verdict at 10am: "Ma Ying-jeou is not guilty," leading to cheers from Ma's supporters waiting outside the courtroom.
Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) had said in his indictment that the former mayor had admitted in his first interview that the special allowance fund should be used for public expenses. However, yesterday's ruling made no mention of such a confession.
Liu said the court believed Ma had answered a "leading" question from the prosecutor, and that Hou turned his answer into a confession.
The verdict stated that the transcript of Hou's questioning of Taipei City treasurer Wu Li-ju (吳麗洳) was "not credible." The court ruled there were serious discrepancies between an audio recording of the testimony and the transcript.
Furthermore, the court said Hou had asked hypothetical questions and the testimony did not have the authority of evidence. Although Hou recorded answers of "yes" and "uh" to his questions as affirmative responses, this was not necessarily the case, the court said.
The judges said Hou had taken statements out of context, and that they had never before seen such discrepancies in evidence.
Another defendant, Ma's former secretary Yu Wen (
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Justin Chou (
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (